1. First off, what in the world was Buffalo able to do to Aaron Rodgers that no one else has been able to do this season? He was the unflappable MVP favorite heading into that game and somehow the Bills made him look terrible.
Rodgers did a lot of that himself. Don't get me wrong, Buffalo's defense played extremely well, but Rodgers missed a wide variety of throws and had guys with enough separation on numerous occasions; he just couldn't hit them. He was bad. Schematically, the Bills didn't do anything special. They rushed four, played tight man coverage, and relied on their excellent defensive line to move Rodgers off his spot and force him to throw into tight windows. The results speak for themselves. This Bills defense is humming along very nicely right now.
2. The defense in Buffalo is their bread and butter. But if they are unable to force turnovers, and the Raiders are able to hang around in the game, has Kyle Orton shown the ability to put the team on his back and put significant points on the board?
Empirically, that scenario has only happened once: in Week 6 against New England. The Pats didn't turn the football over at all - it's the only game this season that Orton started in which the Bills haven't been gifted at least one turnover; they're on a streak of eight straight games in that department - and they lost fairly handily, 37-22. Orton threw a pick and lost a fumble in that game, part of a three-turnover effort by the Bills. But he also threw two touchdown passes, including one to cut the score to 30-22 with six minutes to play. At his best, Orton can keep a team competitive in that scenario - but Orton also has not been anywhere close to playing his best ball in quite some time.
3. Had the Bills not jumped up and taken Sammy Watkins ahead of the Raiders, there is a very possible the Raiders would have chosen him even if Khalil Mack was also still on the board. How has he looked this season? Has he shown the kind of skills that had the Bills jumping up in the draft to get him?
He has, indeed, shown that skill - but within the context of a bad passing offense, and dealing with a few nagging injuries and some hair-pulling inconsistency, he's also largely been held in check for the last month and a half. For example: he had one catch for 28 yards in last week's win over Green Bay. That 28-yarder was a gorgeous play in which he made a super-difficult catch look routine. He spent the rest of the day being overthrown, slipping in the turf, and generally being ignored in a highly conservative game plan. Yes, Watkins is very talented, but lately the production has only been there sporadically - and that certainly isn't entirely his fault, but he's had some growing pains.
4. Last season the Bills had two outstanding former Ducks on their squad in 3-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd and Rookie of the Year runner-up, linebacker Kiko Alonso. Byrd left as a free agent and Alonso has been out with injury this season, and yet the Bills defense hasn't missed a beat. How have they done it?
I would point to two reasons: the emergence of Preston Brown and Nigel Bradham at linebacker, and the addition of Corey Graham in the secondary. We knew Buffalo's defensive line was going to be great, and they have been. We also knew that the Bills still had a lot of talent in the defensive backfield, but they were missing a piece, and Graham has been that piece. He's prone to giving up a big play or two, but he's heady and long, and his ability to play both corner and safety has made him extremely valuable. Alonso's injury seemed catastrophic because he was the only NFL-caliber linebacker on the team last season, but the rookie Brown has really come on strong of late, and the light finally turned on for the ultra-athletic Bradham in his third season. Those have been the guys that have done the most to elevate Buffalo's defense from where it was a year ago, in my opinion.
5. Who has been the unsung hero or under the radar guy for the Bills this season?
This might be considered a lame response, since anyone who plays fantasy football knows his name, but I'll go with Fred Jackson. Buffalo's offense is, frankly, terrible. Especially lately; Orton has been dreadful, the offensive line needs some serious work, and they have completely lost their run-first identity from a year ago. Yet here's Jackson, who will be 34 years old in February and has missed two games due to injury, pacing the team with 861 yards from scrimmage. He milks as much yardage as possible out of his lackluster blocking, is a productive safety valve in the passing game, and is the person most responsible for maintaining a pulse within an otherwise miserable attack. He is one of the most underrated running backs of the past 5-10 years, and continues to do his thing even though the Bills are struggling to move the ball and score points.
I will post my answers to his questions when they are posted on Buffalo Rumblings.
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